Vicki Through The Years

In her words, Vicki successfully “low-profiled” her past after Dallas. Her husband advised it. Close friends were kept in the dark. Still others never made a connection. At most, the name Victoria Adams was linked only to a lead singer of the Spice Girls.

“I tend to be reclusive,” she once admitted. “I thought I was this private person, a roving gypsy who lit and flitted through life.”

Supporting that itinerant notion were repeated job changes, six uninterrupted years drifting along the blue highways of America, and a Warren Commission that effectively dismissed her on seemingly reasonable grounds.

The self-styled ‘gypsy” with her husband Skip, here enjoying New Mexico, 1993

What little that was available about her came mainly from her scanty official testimony and a cursory FBI interview stuffed deep into the 26 volumes. A few other documents popped up, but only by way of in-person searches at the National Archives. Some of the pioneers who scoured such evidence came across her comments and were drawn to three areas of interest: when she came down the stairs (“immediately”), where she felt the shots came from (“the right below rather than from the left above”), and who she saw outside (a man “very similar” in appearance to Jack Ruby).

Her first open mention occurred in Mark Lane’s 1966 book, Rush to Judgment. Briefly noting her quick descent from the fourth floor of the Depository, Lane focused instead on her implication shots originated from the grassy knoll (p. 110), and her probable sighting of Ruby in a place he shouldn’t have been (pp. 262-63).

She was later talked into appearing with Lane as a guest on the Mort Sahl show in Los Angeles. She discussed her whole story then, but was disappointed with the result. “They were only interested in whether or not I had seen Ruby,” Vicki said. “So I just gave up.”

Sylvia Meagher, however, set her sights on the critical stairway angle. “We now revert to Victoria Adams,” she wrote in Accessories After the Fact, “bearing in mind that if her story is accurate it decisively invalidates the Warren Commission’s hypothesis about Oswald’s movements between 12: 30 and 12:33 pm” (pp. 72-74).  Published in 1967, one must wonder why such recognized significance was never pursued.

Harold Weisberg took a slightly different track. In 1967’s Photographic Whitewash, he used Vicki’s statement that her view of the motorcade was temporarily obstructed by an oak tree in an attempt to pinpoint the president’s position when the first shot struck him (pp. 51-52).

Also that year, Josiah Thompson in Six Seconds in Dallas listed Vicki as one more who felt shots came from the knoll.  To his credit he clarified that labeling by citing what she actually had said: “below & to the right” (p. 254).

“And I was even in Playboy magazine,” Vicki teased one day. Indeed she was, but not how most might think. In a lengthy February 1967 Playboy interview with Mark Lane, the attorney brought up her name, telling readers that based on her testimony, she was on the stairway at the same time as Oswald. “He wasn’t there,” Lane quoted Vicki as saying.

Misspelling her name, Jim Bishop in 1968 wrote this colorful and imaginative prose in The Day Kennedy Was Shot: “Not many, even in the plaza, noticed the group of girls squealing with anticipation on the fourth floor of the School Book Depository. They clasped and unclasped their hands with delight as the lead car approached. The office belonged to Vickie Adams. She had invited her friends, Sandra Styles, Elsie Dorman, and Dorothy May Garner to watch with her. The girls were thrilled because of the exceptional view, looking downward into the car, and the possibility of seeing the youthful, attractive First Lady and what she was wearing. The girls were prepared to discuss Mrs. Kennedy’s shoes, gloves, hat, coiffure, even the roses” (pp. 168-69).

In 1968’s Moment of Madness: The People vs. Jack Ruby, Elmer Gertz writes: “Victoria Adams is cited by [Mark] Lane as a witness to Ruby’s presence at the scene of the assassination. Her only comment was that the man she saw looked ‘very similar’ to Ruby. Her testimony indicated that the man she saw was probably on the corner for more than fifteen minutes [his emphasis], which exceeded the maximum time that Ruby could have spent there in order to return to the [Dallas Morning News] newspaper office on time” (p. 526).

Warren Commission attorney David Belin, who took Vicki’s official testimony in 1964, used the exact same arguments from back then to discredit her all over again—this time to even greater lengths—in his 1973 book, November 22: You Are the Jury (pp. 268-71). As a result of his initial questioning of Vicki, he pointed out in his book, “[Joseph] Ball and I had come to another dead end in our efforts to establish the innocence of Oswald or the existence of a co-conspirator.”

Despite showing an interest in Vicki, the HSCA failed to acknowledge her in its 1979 final report.

“Indeed, one witness, Victoria Adams, testified she was on the stairway at that time, and heard no one,” David Lifton correctly penned in his 1980 best seller, Best Evidence. “The Commission concluded she was wrong as to when she was coming down the stairs” (p. 351).

Only snippets of her story were presented in 1989’s wide-ranging Crossfire by Jim Marrs (pp. 44, 53, and 325).

But Oswald had his long-awaited day in court in Walt Brown’s 1992 The People v. Lee Harvey Oswald. In this fiction-based-on-fact courtroom drama, Appendix A reveals that Vicki was subpoenaed as a witness for the imaginary trial but, true to form, was not called to testify (p. 613).

Vicki made her silver screen debut in 1992’s hit movie JFK. Oliver Stone portrayed her running down the stairs as a frenzied Lee Oswald rushes by, a taunt by the director at how it had to be if the Warren Commission’s scenario of that particular event were true.  The actress who depicted Vicki was not named in the credits.

The girl on the stairs, courtesy of Oliver Stone in the 1992 movie JFK

The real Victoria Adams is alphabetically listed as a witness in two encyclopedic paperbacks: 1992’s The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Duffy and Vincent Ricci (p. 5), and 1993’s Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson (also p. 5).

Vicki’s “immediate” run down the stairs is elevated in 1993 to taking “at least four to five minutes after the third shot”—an opinion introduced by way of a footnote, no less—in Gerald Posner’s Case Closed (p. 264). Posner reportedly smiled and quietly walked away when shown a document by a fellow researcher that contradicted his inflated time estimate and instead corroborated her speediness.

She’s noted only as a looker-on to the story of co-worker Elsie Dorman’s jumpy attempt at filming the presidential motorcade from their fourth-floor perch in Richard Trask’s 1994 Pictures of the Pain (pp. 443 and 445).

Coverup, written in 1998 by Stewart Galanor, correctly cites Vicki’s testimony where she said the sound of the shots “seemed as if it came from the right below rather than from the left above” (p. 75).  Yet a bit later, Galanor lists her as still another witness who felt the shots came from the knoll (p. 171).

In Murder in Dealey Plaza, a collection of articles edited by James H. Fetzer and published in 2000, you’ll find Vicki’s actions between 12:30 and 12:32 described chronologically as part of “Part I: The Day JFK Was Shot” (pp. 45-46).

Professor Gerald McKnight provides a general account of Vicki’s statements and actions in 2005’s Breach of Trust. But then he writes “immediately after the assassination Adams gave the same account to Dallas police detective James R. Leavelle” (pp. 113-14). Actually, Vicki gave that account to Leavelle nearly three months after the assassination. And in footnotes on page 377 (#13 and #17), McKnight says that Vicki corrected her Warren Commission testimony on February 17, 1964, a task hard to imagine since her testimony didn’t take place until April 7, 1964. The February 17 date was when she was interviewed by Leavelle.

Her name takes on the more fashionable “Ms. Adams” in G. Paul Chambers 2010 book Head Shot (p. 61). And she is christened as a possible assassin, of all things, in Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 tome, Reclaiming History. “Why not?” he asks, hopefully in jest for his sake. “Women can pull triggers too, you know” (p. 832).

Once The Girl on the Stairs was commercially published in 2013, Vicki’s full narrative finally became known. Had she lived to see it happen, it’s doubtful she would have changed her style.

“You know what?” she told me one day. “Here is the truth: I want nothing. I do not crave fame nor fortune. I just want to help you since it has been so terribly important to you. I just want someone to hear the truth. Should your book be published before I die, I do not want anyone to know where I am. I want no publicity. And I know on an inner level that you will respect my confidentiality.”

As hoped, The Girl prompted further discussions and studies of this overlooked woman. Yet it still didn’t stop the occasional errors of fact. For instance, Jerome Corsi in his 2013 book Who Really Killed Kennedy? devotes a section to Vicki that he titles “The Girl in [sic] the Stairs.” He tells readers Vicki “produced for Ernest a 1964 letter her attorney had written to J. Lee Rankin…complaining that someone had made changes in her deposition, altering her meaning” (pp. 94-95). Vicki didn’t produce the letter; it was discovered in the National Archives. The letter was written to Rankin by Asst. U.S. Attorney Martha Joe Stroud, who certainly was not counsel to Vicki. And the letter merely listed a few grammatical corrections Vicki had noted after reviewing a transcript of her deposition. It contained no complaints about changes that altered her meaning. That would surface later.

Also in 2013, Flip de May, gave Vicki the dues she had been denied. In a lengthy segment of Cold Case Kennedy, he traced Vicki’s step-by-step journey down the stairs in an elaborate and graphic timeline (pp. 351-62). He titled that part of his book “The women on the stairs,” the plural alluding to a neglected coworker who had accompanied Vicki.

And again in 2013, historian James DiEugenio offered up an accurate and thorough examination of Vicki’s unabridged account in Reclaiming Parkland (pp. 91-95).

The most recent mention of Vicki appears in Vince Palamara’s latest book, Honest Answers about the Murder of President John F. Kennedy: A New Look at the JFK Assassination. In this March 2021 volume, the author calls her version of events a “game changer” because “it proves that Oswald could not have been firing a rifle up on the sixth floor” (p. 110).

Today, additional considerations of Vicki are being planned.

Many years ago, Vicki tried to tell authorities her side of the story. “I said it so many times I got tired of saying it,” she once explained. But nobody wanted to hear it back then. “No one wanted to believe anything else other than what they wanted to believe.”     

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The Lunchroom Encounter

I was asked the other day if I thought the second-floor lunchroom encounter between Baker, Truly, and Oswald was legitimate, if maybe it had never occurred and instead was fabricated to divert public attention from where Oswald really was when the shots were fired.

It reminded me of two things, one of which seemed so slight at the time it never really made much of a footprint.

It was March 20, 1968. I was fortunate to be sitting in Roy Truly’s office, in part because I had told him I was from far-away Pennsylvania.

“Philadelphia?” he inquired.

No, I said, a small town I was quite sure he had never heard of. And I was right.

He told me he had once dealt with a newspaper reporter from Philly named “Lee.” He couldn’t remember if that was his first or last name. But it had stuck in his mind—even after nearly five years of media grilling—because of a former employee by the name of “Lee” Oswald.

Anyway, I made a mental note and began rummaging through a bunch of press clippings when I returned home. Sure enough I found articles written by an Adrian Lee of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. One in particular was a multi-columned, name-filled narrative of what occurred in Dallas that most newsworthy of weekends. (Lee died in 2011. He had joined the Bulletin in 1948 and won several honors, one a “best-writing award” for his coverage of the JFK assassination.)

I was curious enough to call Lee that week, who kindly spent some time telling me of his newsman’s involvement. Then he offered up a personal tidbit.

Seems that very early on November 23, the morning after the assassination, he had tried to reach Roy Truly by phone at his home. His wife answered only to tell Lee her husband had already returned to the Depository.  Lee said Mrs. Truly was nice, willing to chat, and volunteered a detailed story. She told Lee when Truly arrived home the previous evening—shortly after 7 p.m.—he related to her how he and a policeman had met Oswald in a second-floor lunchroom not long after the shooting. Mrs. Truly said her husband described Oswald as being a bit startled—”Wouldn’t you be?” I remember Lee asking me—as the officer pointed a gun at him. But otherwise, Truly told his wife Oswald was composed and unshaken. She also admitted that her husband felt a bit guilty, wishing he had known then what he later found out.     

Interesting, I thought, but just another tree in the forest.

In a related episode (although I didn’t make the connection then), I interviewed Lt. Carl Day on Oct. 6, 1999. I recall it being a rather lengthy and rambling phone conversation. But during it, Day started describing his actions on the afternoon of the assassination.

“I lifted the gun from where it was found and one live round was ejected. Then I took the gun back to the department, locked it up, and returned to the Depository. I spoke with Truly then, who related the story of running up to the second floor after the shots and seeing Oswald standing at the coke machine.”

Day told me he returned to the Depository at 3 p.m., the time he also used in his Warren Commission testimony. He said he stayed there until 6 p.m.

Somewhere in that three-hour period, FBI agent Nat Pinkston talked with both Day and Truly. Pinkston then penned a summary memo to his boss describing his afternoon’s activities, further stating, “Lt. Day was at this time at the book depository and the gun was at the PD.” In the same memo, Pinkston wrote that Truly mentioned to him about going up the stairs with a police officer and seeing Oswald in a second-floor “snack bar.”

I suppose the point to all this is that if the second-floor lunchroom incident was fictitious, it certainly had to be invented rather quickly. It had to be thought up, pulled together, and brought into line—rehearsed, one might say—with a handful of consenting adults prior to Truly telling his wife about it shortly after his arrival home at 7 o’clock that very night. In fact, it somehow had to be manufactured before Carl Day heard it from Truly not long after Day’s return to the Depository at 3 p.m.

Does the unlikelihood of such a hastily contrived scenario mean the confrontation really was real and it took place exactly as officially described? Not necessarily, but the timing of when this presumed myth originated must be an important consideration.  How could it have been concocted not the next day, not later that weekend as things fell into place, but within only a few hours of the assassination and before much of the evidence was even known?

And yes, I’m familiar with the contradictions to the official story.

I’m well aware that Baker initially thought the incident had occurred on a different floor; that a local reporter “overheard” Truly saying he saw Oswald on the first floor right after the shooting; that a New York paper quoted TSBD VP Ochus Campbell that day as saying much the same thing; that Oswald himself admitted to being on the first floor when the shots were fired.

Never mind that Baker was unfamiliar with the building’s layout; that journalism school (at least in my day) does not teach students to print stories based on eavesdropping; that Campbell never mentioned observing Oswald when he completed an official FBI report (in fact, in that report he went so far as to say he was “not personally acquainted” with Oswald and “has never seen him”); that Oswald himself stated he was in the second-floor lunchroom when confronted by a policeman.

Counters to these conflicts might be that Truly and Baker lied after being threatened; that Pinkston was the mastermind of this charade for national security reasons; that an earwigged comment really is the most reliable of all journalistic sources; that Campbell changed his story after being threatened; that Oswald fibbed about being on the second floor, or he was misquoted, or his interrogators lied—after being threatened.

Citing media dispatches from that weekend can be risky. Press reporting was grossly inadequate and misleading (so bad it was a topic of discussion in my J-school legal classes nearly ten years later). From such luminaries as Dan Rather and Bob Clark the public was told other people had been shot in Dealey Plaza and taken to the hospital; that the assassin fired from the fifth floor, then ran to the sixth to hide his rifle; that LBJ was shot, Gov. Connally was hit in the head, and a Secret Service agent had been “confirmed” killed; that JFK arrived at Parkland Hospital by bus; that a man and a woman fired at the president.

Funny, in hindsight.

But in a debate on the merits of the lunchroom encounter—just like so many other singular aspects of this crime—one must take into no-nonsense account the critical timing issue. Exactly when did this supposed fantasy first surface, why was it deemed necessary, and who could have efficiently put together and coordinated something like that so fast with a whole lot of uncertainties still in the air?

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Setting It Straight

My reply to John Armstrong’s attack of Victoria Adams with a clear eye toward cleaning up the assumptions he makes regarding the evidence:

In a recent website article titled “Oswald DID NOT Run Down the Stairs” (his emphasis), researcher/author John Armstrong dissects the story of Victoria Adams. He wholeheartedly upholds her account that she descended the back stairs of the Texas School Book Depository immediately after the assassination. But he takes strong exception to statements she made to me that she DID NOT (my emphasis) see employees William Shelley and Billy Lovelady when she arrived on the first floor.

Vicki is quoted in her Warren Commission testimony as saying Shelley and Lovelady were there. Yet those two men claimed they remained outside the Depository for some 10 minutes after the assassination. This apparent contradiction between Miss Adams’ prompt descent while claiming she saw two men still outside is what the Commission used to discredit her.

Armstrong thinks her statement before the Commission—that she saw Shelley and Lovelady—is gospel. He contends her comments of not seeing those men made some 40 years after the fact should be viewed with skepticism and doubt.

No one agrees more than I.

That doubt is precisely what pushed me to search for the original transcript of her testimony. Did she really say she saw Shelley and Lovelady, or was her testimony doctored as she herself believes? I was looking for the first generation, virtually unalterable, accordion-style paper tape coded by the court stenographer. What I discovered was that this critical tape was missing from the National Archives. A later document revealed it had been destroyed by the Commission, previously on record as promising to preserve such tapes for future inspection.

So, we don’t really know what Vicki said. Or didn’t say. Nevertheless, Armstrong maintains she was word-perfect about seeing those two men, and chastises her for telling me otherwise. He ends up calling her a “hoax.” Knowing about Vicki and her highly principled background, she is the last person who would fabricate a story.

So why is this guy so harsh with her?

In order to answer that, we need to understand John Armstrong.

In 2003, he wrote a book titled “Harvey and Lee.” In it, he claims Lee Harvey Oswald was actually two people: one the publicly recognized assassin “Lee,” the other a mysterious look-alike named “Harvey.” The book was praised for its meticulous detail. But it was also criticized by some on the grounds Armstrong interpreted evidence in a way that reinforced his hypothesis.

Part of Armstrong’s recent foray contends that both Harvey and Lee were cohorts in a plot to kill JFK. And each was present in the Depository on November 22nd. Abettors were there as well, one to help one of the pair of Oswalds escape from the sixth floor, the other to lead the other away from the crime scene.

Enter Shelley and Lovelady…and, by extension, Victoria Adams.

Armstrong’s scenario has Lovelady turning off electrical power in the building from a circuit box on the first floor. This allowed the sniper’s-nest shooter to pry up loose floor boards, safely crawl into the passenger elevator shaft below, then make his way into the elevator compartment and ride to freedom once Lovelady reset the power a couple minutes later. Shelley’s task was less complicated, merely escorting the other confederate out a rear door.

Shelley and Lovelady thus had to be present on the first floor…in a New York minute. Their quick appearance at the back of the building, Armstrong surmises, “is a clear indication that either one or both of these men may have been co-conspirators.” That’s why he favors Vicki’s up-tempo descent and her supposed sighting of both men. But that’s also why he’s so critical of her when she says she really didn’t see those two after all. This is why he has to call Adams’ story a “hoax”.

Since Vicki’s original testimony no longer exists (prompting suspicion by itself), is there other corroboration? 

The best comes from a co-worker, Sandra Styles, who accompanied Vicki to the first floor. She was a perfect witness to not only verify the timing, but also to say who was there when the girls arrived. She was never questioned by the Warren Commission. Funny thing too is that Sandra Styles knew Shelley and Lovelady. In fact, she knew them well. When I tracked her down in 2002, she told me that Shelley and Lovelady definitely were not on the first floor. She repeated that in subsequent interviews, often emphatically. So how does Armstrong handle this?

“Adams’ co-worker, Sandra Styles, followed her from their office on the 4th floor, down the wooden stairs, and onto the 1st floor. As the two women were rushing out of the building, Styles momentarily focused her [eyes] on a policeman hurrying toward the stairs and elevator. Styles’ memory of seeing police (Officer Baker) on the first floor agreed with Adams’ statement of the time that she arrived on the first floor, which was within one minute after the shooting. Styles did not see Shelley or Lovelady, but her vivid memory of the police may explain why she paid little or no attention to other people in the area. Her focus of attention was on the policeman.”

That elucidation is unsourced. I think I know why. Sandra Styles never saw a policeman on the first floor.

After sending Sandra that paragraph for a response, she replied that she absolutely did not see a policeman, let alone police, on the first floor that day. She had no clue about where Armstrong got his information. Her only sighting of a cop, she said, was the one sitting on a motorcycle outside the building.

Armstrong gives excessive weight to the day-of affidavits by Shelley and Lovelady in which each imply a rapid re-entry into the Depository. But their later interviews to the FBI and Warren Commission detailing their longer stay outside are considered bogus, having been “changed” in order to avoid culpability.

He elevates Dallas Police Officer Marrion Baker’s observation of seeing two unidentified white men on the first floor as he and building manager Roy Truly rushed toward the back staircase:

“One of these two “white men” was Bill Shelley, who stated in an affidavit to the Dallas Police that he was told “to watch the elevators and not let anyone off.” The only time that Roy Truly could have told Shelley to watch the elevators was moments before he and Officer Baker ran up the stairs—1 and 1/2 minutes after the shooting (his emphasis).”

From the first floor, Baker and Truly sped up the back stairs to the roof where the policeman felt shots may have originated. According to Truly, that round trip took about 10 minutes. It’s conceivable Truly’s request that Shelley oversee the elevators may just as likely have taken place after Truly and Baker returned to the first floor.

Oddly, Armstrong completely ignores the one man all three individuals—Miss Adams, Miss Styles, and Officer Baker—independently told me they noticed near those elevators: a large black man. That is the only person Vicki said she saw and spoke to, not Shelley or Lovelady. That is the only person Miss Styles observed. And that is the same man Baker told me he was about to confront, a la Oswald seconds later, until Truly told him the black man was an employee.

Shelley, Lovelady, and Miss Adams were questioned by Warren Commission staff in April 1964. Vicki went first, followed by Lovelady, then Shelley. Armstrong writes:

“The simple fact is that if Adams had not told the WC, in 1964, that she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, then the WC would have no reason to question these men about Adams.”

As Armstrong knows, for he already cited this document, the Commission had in hand a February 17, 1964, interview submitted by Dallas Police Detective James Leavelle, in which Miss Adams, for the first and only time since the assassination, is quoted as saying she saw Shelley and Lovelady. Those interested should read that section of my book which discusses the strange circumstances surrounding this unnerving interview, particularly the detective’s explanation that Vicki had to be re-interviewed because a fire at police headquarters had destroyed her earlier file. (See The Girl on the Stairs, pp. 246–47.)

[NOTE: You can read this police report in full. Click on the “Q&A” tab above then scroll to the “Detective Leavelle” entry.]

Armstrong writes that during Lovelady’s testimony, he “volunteered (his emphasis) that he saw ‘Vickie’ when he returned to the building.” That is not accurate. Here’s what Lovelady said: “I saw a girl, but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic]. Armstrong’s mistake is as bad as the Commission’s conclusion: “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams.” Shelley, by the way, said he didn’t see Vicki on the first floor, a detail Armstrong overlooks.

In a September 1964 internal memo, Warren Commission counsel Wesley Liebeler wrote this about Vicki:

“Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Miss Adams was on the stairway at that time, the question is raised as to why she did not see Oswald…”

But notice how Armstrong inserts additional words into Liebeler’s comment when he quotes the attorney as saying this instead:

“Victoria Adams testified that she came down the stairway, within about 1 minute after the shots, from the fourth floor to the first floor where she encountered two Depository employees—Bill Shelley and Billy Lovelady. If Adams saw these two men on the 1st floor, near the freight elevators and stairway, only one minute after the shooting, then how could Oswald have [run] down the stairs from the 6th to the 2nd floor at the same time?”

If you follow his argument, then this explains the excess verbiage.

And although he is quick to condemn Vicki for her 40-year-old assertion, he uses as further support for his thesis a comment Buell Wesley Frazier made for the first time at the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. He said he saw Oswald emerge from the rear of the Depository shortly after the assassination.  It’s only natural to suspect he does this to support his construct.

__________

(See related items by clicking on the “Q&A” tab above. This article also appears on the Kennedys and King website at  https://kennedysandking.com/)

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Howard Willens Redux

In August of this year, I emailed Howard Willens, one of the writers of the Warren Report and author of “History Will Prove Us Right,” to clarify some details regarding an upcoming blog post I was preparing. Although I had not asked him anything on this go around about Victoria Adams, he volunteered the following in his reply:

“Of the many witnesses who were interviewed or testified, there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him. I gather from your previous work that you believe she was credible and that the Commission should have given more weight to her testimony.  No one questions the integrity of that witness and many others whose testimony was not relied on in the Report. The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.  Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members, before the report was finished and published.”

It is unfortunate, but Willens’ response is an example of how facts in this case are being sold short and his particular brand of “history” is simply being fudged. Here’s why:

“…there was one woman who said that if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor after the shooting, she would have seen him.”

False. The unnamed “woman,” aka Vicki Adams, never once said anything remotely similar to what Willens has written here. In reality, it was the Warren Report that implied as much, saying, “If her estimate of time is correct, she reached the bottom of the stairs before Truly and Baker started up, and she must have run down the stairs ahead of Oswald and would probably have seen or heard him [my emphasis]. At no point in her testimony does Vicki say she would have seen Oswald had he at that time been escaping down the stairs.

“The Commission concluded that all the contrary evidence outweighed the recollections of this particular witness.” 

All the contrary evidence? You mean like the publicly suppressed Martha Joe Stroud document that corroborated Vicki’s immediate descent—a document the Commission had in hand three months before concluding she came down much later? Like Dorothy Garner (not questioned by the Commission) who verified both what Vicki did and what was written in that document? Like the weak and at-odds testimonies of Shelley and Lovelady relied on by the Commission? Like Sandra Styles (also neglected by the Commission) who accompanied Vicki and verified that Shelley and Lovelady, two she knew well, weren’t where the Commission presumed them to be? Like David Belin who, upon introducing himself to Vicki, said he didn’t believe a word she was saying? Like Vicki being the only one excluded from the time tests of Oswald’s escape, even though she begged Belin to be included?

“Her testimony was carefully considered by the lawyers preparing the draft section of the report and all those who reviewed that draft, including the Commission members…”

I find it absolutely impossible to believe that men of that caliber could “carefully consider” her testimony while overlooking such “contrary evidence” that, on the contrary, proved she was right and gave every indication of not outweighing “the recollections of this particular witness.” What the Commission did to minimize Vicki Adams was wrong.

And they knew it.

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Mr. Willens

In a 1964 internal memo, Warren Report co-author Howard P. Willens wrote, “In a discussion, the Commission could rely on some witnesses and reject the testimony of others, such as Victoria Adams.”

His comment was in reference to the Report’s chapter that dealt with Oswald’s escape from the sixth floor. What always intrigued me was the inclusion of her name and her name alone.

Was it because the Commission had conducted a thorough look-see into Vicki’s claims and found them to be without merit? But that couldn’t be because, despite its promise to do so in her specific case, the Commission had done no such thing. In fact, it had avoided just such an examination.

So what then was the basis for her rejection?

We might discover a clue from Willens’ 1978 testimony before the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) where he discussed his role on the Warren Commission. During that appearance he said, “We thought it was important to have a fair and comprehensive treatment of the evidence. We also thought it would be desirable to support the Commission’s conclusions in as useful and as persuasive a way as possible.”

(The reader should note that those conclusions regarding Oswald’s guilt were spelled out in January 1964, a month before the Commission would call its first witness to the stand.)

Willens’ explanation prompted a related HSCA question: “Do I understand you correctly to be saying that where information or evidence might have been subjected to sharp challenge in an adversary proceeding there was an inclination of the Commission staff not to rely on it but to rely instead on evidence that could not have been as sharply criticized or challenged?”

“That certainly was a general effort,” Willens admitted. “I don’t know how well it was achieved in the overall Report but I do know that it was of particular concern with respect to the evidence implicating Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Was that it? Were Vicki’s words considered a “sharp challenge”? Would she have presented a problem in an adversary proceeding where the facts were honestly being sought? Although her testimony was not officially rejected, as Willens first recommended, its substance certainly met that fate.

In 2013, Willens continued with the same mindset. He failed to mention Vicki or her important trip down the stairs in his commemorative 50th-anniversary book,untitled “History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” He would though cite the more “useful” and “persuasive” bits and pieces.

After reading his book for a third time, I obtained the author’s email address through his publisher. I wanted to see if he’d provide some clarification on several issues.

“If you have a serious question about who did it,” he responded, “further correspondence is probably a waste of your time and mine. If that is not the case, then by all means send me your questions.”

And so I did.

Why was Victoria Adams singled out in that 1964 memo? If when she came down the stairs was so vital, as David Belin and others on the Commission staff implied as early as February 1964, why wasn’t she included in the timed re-enactments of Oswald’s escape? In that same regard, why weren’t the three women who stood next to Vicki at the window questioned, particularly Sandra Styles who accompanied Vicki down the stairs? Why did the Commission elevate the times of when Vicki said she left her office and when she said she arrived on the first floor?

“I do not see any important issue involved here,” Willens generalized in reply. “There is no doubt that Oswald descended on the stairs. There is no doubt that [Vicki] did likewise. If they were on the stairs at the same time, she might have, or might not have, heard his steps. Her testimony was not rejected because she did not see or hear him.

Willens

Howard Willens

“In fact,” Willens went on, “the Report relies on the testimony of other witnesses, as well as hers, to try and reconstruct the events in the Depository in the minutes after the assassination. The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.’ This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.’ Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams. All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Let’s closely examine that last paragraph:

“The Report states that she saw Shelley and Lovelady ‘when she reached the first floor.'”

The Report does indeed cite a portion of Vicki’s testimony in which she is quoted as saying she saw those men on the first floor.

“This is consistent with the testimony of Shelley and Lovelady to the effect that they ‘entered the building by the rear door several minutes after Baker and Truly rushed through the front entrance.'”

Both men did in fact testify to remaining outside the Depository for several minutes before returning to the first floor.

“Upon entering they saw a young lady who they believed was Miss Adams.”

Here is where Willens is blatantly wrong. His use of the word “they,” in two instances no less, implies both Shelley and Lovelady saw a young lady who each man thought was Vicki Adams. That is not true, however. Both men did not say they saw a young lady, and both men did not say that young lady was believed to be Miss Adams.

This is what William Shelley said:

 

Q: When you came into the shipping room did you see anybody?
A: I saw Eddie Piper.
Q: Who else did you see?
A: That’s all we saw immediately.
Q: Did you ever see Vickie [sic] Adams?
A: I saw her that day but I don’t remember where I saw her…I thought it was on the fourth floor a while after that.

 

Cross off Shelley, who does not recall seeing Vicki on the first floor but rather on the floor where she actually worked, later that day. What about Billy Lovelady?

 

Q: Who did you see in the first floor?
A: I saw a girl but I wouldn’t swear to it it’s Vickie [sic].

 

A most curious statement for Lovelady to make since, in all of his testimony up to that point, “Vickie” or “Vicki” or any other derivation or reference to that name had not been mentioned. Continuing:

 

Q: Who is Vickie?
A: The girl that works for Scott Foresman.
Q: What is her full name?
A: I wouldn’t know.
Q: Vickie Adams?
A: I believe so.
Q: Would you say it was Vickie you saw?
A: I couldn’t swear.
Q: Where was the girl?
A: I don’t remember what place she was but I remember seeing a girl and she was talking to Bill or something….

 

But “Bill” said he saw only employee Eddie Piper and no one else. He didn’t mention speaking with anyone or being spoken to, let alone it being Vicki Adams. And did Lovelady’s comments really justify the Warren Report’s assertion that, “On entering, Lovelady saw a girl on the first floor who he believes was Victoria Adams”?

“All three witnesses agree on seeing each other on the first floor.”

Obviously, this is not true either. And like the Warren Report before him, Willens ignored Sandra Styles, a fourth member of this first floor meet-and-greet, and clearly an important one. Her corroborative value is significant, as is the fact she knew both Shelley and Lovelady yet is adamant in saying they were not on the first floor when the girls arrived there.

Investigators David Belin and Howard Willens

David Belin (left) with Willens on first floor of TSBD, March 1964

In my follow-up email I brought all this to Willens’ attention, and reiterated everything regular followers of this blog have read concerning Vicki. I mentioned Vicki’s strong denial to ever having said she saw Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor, and the evidence that is consistent with that denial. I also sent him a copy of the Martha Joe Stroud letter, explaining its sinister implications and reminding him that, for some reason, it had been suppressed from public view for 35 years.

“I don’t mean to be argumentative,” I wrote, “but bearing all this in mind, what are your thoughts?”

I suppose I pigeonholed myself into that “sharp challenge” category.

Months later, I’m still awaiting a reply.

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Further Corroboration

As previously mentioned, it’s always fascinating to hear from the people who once knew Victoria Adams. To a one, they corroborate her character. Here’s a recent example:
Mr. Ernest,  
Miss Adams was my 6th grade teacher at IHM Catholic School in 1961-1962! She was the best teacher I ever had at all levels. She taught all subjects well, but it was her enthusiastic, positive attitude that amazed me!
She was different from all other teachers because she let us know it was important to be yourself! Miss Adams had guest speakers from the community. Once a detective spoke to the class about the importance of paying attention to detail. When he left, she said “take out a piece of paper and write down everything you noticed about our speaker”!! The winner got a prize for how much he had noticed about our guest, his clothes, his mannerisms, even how long he spoke.
We had a class Christmas party, off school grounds, which she arranged. She asked me to be Santa, dress up and have each student sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas! She made me feel like a leader! I was not an artist, but had a sense of humor! She helped me win a craft contest on the Bible and manners. Her hint about the Garden of Eden and Ladies First (the 1st apple bite) was the reason I won! Several times a year, I would think of Miss Adams and how she truly changed my life!
      I decided to find her and thank her for all she meant to me! I found your book on the internet! I ordered your book and can’t wait to read it! “Miss Adams” changed my life! Thank you for defending this incredible lady! She always told the truth and was a stickler for details!
Thank you,
David

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Sisters

One of the highlights of writing a book distributed world-wide is the opportunity of dealing with the many readers from all walks of life who contact me in one way or the other.

Especially stirring is the correspondence from people who once knew the heroine of my book, Vicki Adams, on a more personal level: friends, high-school classmates, teachers, foster parents, coworkers. To the letter, they all confirm the type of character Vicki was: cautious yet generous, careful with words, intelligent, and above all else, a stickler for principles and truths.

Then came the day her sister wrote me.

Here was a relationship like no other: a blood relative who had shared an apartment with young Vicki in Dallas; a woman who Vicki trusted and had confided in shortly after the assassination; a woman who was in the same room that weekend when FBI agents first questioned Vicki.

In her email, Judi recalled a few key moments from that November.

A excited Vicki had called Judi at her work. Vicki wanted to relate an extraordinary experience: she had just witnessed the assassination of a U.S. president from the fourth-floor window of her office. She would go on to say she had noted three shots which she felt seemed to come from below and to the right side of her building. Vicki also said that immediately after the shooting, she and a coworker ran to the back stairs and had gone down them in order to get outside.

This is no doubt the earliest record of what Victoria Adams had seen, heard, and done that afternoon. Judi said Vicki repeated that narrative, identical in its details, during subsequent telephone conversations with her later that day.

Two days afterwards, on November 24, Judi said she was in the same room with Vicki while FBI agents Edmond Hardin and Paul Scott sat in their apartment and asked her sister questions. At the time, Vicki, Judi, and one other girl were sharing expenses at 3651 Fontana Street in Dallas.

“I do remember her telling them exactly what she had told me over the telephone that afternoon and evening [of November 22],” Judi wrote. “Pretty much that she ran down the stairs either directly before Oswald or after him. What they seemed to be looking for was an eyewitness.”

In other words, had she seen Oswald escaping from above?

Judi’s memories of what Vicki told her in those early phone calls — impromptu as they were and made at such a nonpartisan hour — support word-for-word what Vicki said about when she used the stairway to the Dallas Police, again to the FBI, and then ultimately to the Warren Commission. But on November 24, while Vicki sat nervously in front of those two agents, the thorny problem surrounding exactly when she had made her descent hadn’t yet surfaced.

And because she had replied that she didn’t see anyone on those back stairs while she was on them, Vicki Adams was not the kind of eyewitness the FBI was seeking.

Little did they know.

 

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A Garner By Any Other Name

Setting the record straight: to provide the facts about something that people have a false understanding or idea about.

On that note, let me try to “set the record straight.”

Darryl Wayne Garner and Dorothy Ann Garner are not brother and sister.

Let me repeat: although they have the same last name, Darryl Wayne Garner and Dorothy Ann Garner are NOT brother and sister.

For those unfamiliar, Darryl Wayne was the guy arrested for shooting Warren Reynolds, who saw the fleeing assailant of policeman J. D. Tippit and couldn’t ID him as Lee Oswald…until after he was shot in the head by Darryl Wayne.

Yea, it was definitely Oswald, Reynolds would then say, a reflection of the dramatic improvement to his recollection.

Darryl would end up being released from jail based on an alibi provided by Nancy Mooney. Mooney (get this) was once a stripper for Jack Ruby.

You cannot write script this good.

Darryl was dead at the age of 30. Mooney was arrested for a dispute with her roommate. She was found hung in her jail cell, her name thus added to a growing list of those who perished in one way or another because of their assumed connection to JFK’s murder.

Dorothy Ann on the other hand led a far less complicated life. She was a supervisor for the Scott Foresman Co., located on the fourth-floor of the TSBD. On November 22, 1963, she became one of four women who watched the assassination from that office window, years later providing the words that proved Victoria Adams had been telling the truth after all.

But that’s another story.

Dorothy Garner

Dorothy Ann Garner

Anyway, somebody wrote to me recently asking for my thoughts on the idea that Darryl Wayne Garner was one of several shooters firing at Kennedy that day. His position was on the aforementioned fourth floor of the TSBD while sister Dorothy Ann Garner acted as his spotter.

This idea comes from somewhat of a deathbed “diary” in which one of those listed as being behind JFK’s murder was none other than Joe DiMaggio. This scenario has it that Joltin’ Joe was upset at the Kennedy’s, particularly Jack, for how his former wife Marilyn Monroe was treated, and maybe even done away with. The careful reader might now have an inkling toward the credibility of the aforementioned Garner-Garner idea.

The Garner-Garner idea is not new, by the way. It’s been around the block a few years and I’m frankly surprised it still exists. But it’s wrong. And here’s why.

Darryl Wayne GARNER of Warren Reynolds’ fame was born January 1, 1940, in Delta County, Texas. His parents were Roy Lee and Dahlia Beatrice (Barlett) GARNER.

Dorothy Ann DAVIS of TSBD fame was born on August 30, 1928, in Grandfield, Oklahoma, to Joseph Porter and Bertha Leona (Dority) DAVIS. Her husband, who she married in 1956, was Billy Joe GARNER.

Right about here you should be saying…wait a minute. If both Darryl and Dorothy (and perhaps even a missing bro Darryl) are indeed brother and sister, shouldn’t they share the same parents and the same surname? And shouldn’t it be either Darryl Wayne DAVIS, or Dorothy Ann GARNER, in her case Garner from the get go and not a name change due to marriage?

Those are really good questions.

Dorothy Savage

Dorothy F. Garner

Evidence mounts when you look at the obituaries of both sets of parents. There is no listing for a Darryl Wayne as a sibling to Joesph and Bertha Davis. Conversely, there is no listing for a Dorothy Ann as a daughter to Roy and Dahlia Garner.

Yet here is where I think the confusion—either that or intentional misrepresentation—originates. Darryl Wayne Garner’s parents DID in fact have a daughter named Dorothy. Her name was Dorothy F. Garner. (Note the initial.) She was born in 1934 and later became an airplane electrician in Irving, Texas. But she was never employed at the TSBD.

In JFK assassination lore, Dorothy Ann Garner, the TSBD one, is often mistakenly identified and given the aka name of Dorothy Faye Garner. I once asked Dorothy Ann about the Faye middle name and was told emphatically she never, ever used it and didn’t recall anyone else using it. At most, she said, she was referred to as “Aunt D” or maybe “Dot,” and nothing more.

So, do you think this will set the record straight once and for all? Don’t bet on it. If history is prelude in this subject, the error will persist simply because it offers a far better entertainment value than the facts.

Agreed?

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Connections

I’m fortunate to have more than 700 Facebook friends. Although I’ve become privy to their whims and ways, I really don’t know many on a personal basis. I’ve never met the majority, or shaken a hand, or chatted over an iced tea. That’s more a regret than a criticism. It’s a sign of the times, I guess. And yet, despite such detachment, there always seems to be a few who will spark a connection to my own sometimes distant whims and ways.

Flashback: July 1970

I’m sitting in one of those little tow tractors used to reposition jets on the flight deck. The jets are gone now so it’s dark out, quiet. We’re on our way back to America after a seven-month deployment. Tomorrow, we’ll dock in Florida. Tomorrow, my enlistment is done.

But this evening, it’s just the stars, my wristwatch…and me. It’s a given there will be no sleep. So a buddy has loaned me a cassette player for company. Good for an hour of his favored 60’s rock. Then what?

It’s 10 PM when I press play:

You were the sunshine, baby, whenever you smiled
But I call you stormy today
All of a sudden that ole rain’s fallin’ down
And my world is cloudy and gray

Huh? Who is this guy with such a smooth, clear voice, a kind of throaty baritone both distinctive and alluring, so different from the current airwaves fare?

The song ends; another begins:

In the cool of the evening
When everything is gettin’ kind of groovy
I call you up and ask you
Would you like to go with me and see a movie
First you say no you’ve got some plans for the night
And then you stop and say…all right
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you

It’s emotional, soulful, mellow. The band is seamless with elements of jazzy sax coupled with soft rock. But it’s that melancholy voice that is so hauntingly magnetic:

Waves…keep rolling out and in
‘Cross the sea and back again
As I watch them I begin,
To dream…

The tape runs out and I check its label. The Classics IV.

The Classics who?

Rewind to start. Play. Rewind. OK, once more. Then again. Again. And again again.

Before I know it…

When the sun comes up in the morning
Till the shadows start to fade
I think about a midnight long ago…

…it is 6 AM.

And someone named Dennis Yost has kept me company all night long.

Fast forward: May 2017

I’ve become Facebook friends with Linda Yost. She describes herself as the “wife/widow” of Dennis Yost. Yes, that Dennis Yost. It is only now that I learn of his death. He fell down a flight of stairs in 2006, suffered a debilitating brain injury, and passed away after spending the next two years in nursing homes.

I should be immune to poignant passings by now. Yet for some reason this news makes me feel very hollow.

The music of The Classics IV has been a constant companion in my life, evolving from cassette and LP to CD. In fact, the songs helped provide the generational inspiration I needed as I sat to write my book.

I never met Dennis Yost, although I would have relished the opportunity if only because of his influence on that dark night at sea. Yet listening to his voice and those Classics sounds always evokes a strange sense of closeness that is difficult to understand let alone convey.

Today, Linda is in charge of the Dennis Yost Severe Brain Trauma Foundation in Ohio.

I naturally must tell her the circumstances surrounding my introduction, as it were, to her husband. I feel silly, an old man recollecting what must seem like a teen-aged groupie story. I guess you had to be there, alone on that flight deck that night, to make sense of it, I say.

“No, I understand,” she replies, and adds how, before she even met Dennis, her family’s new dog had been christened “Spooky.”

“Dennis didn’t seem to realize how much his music meant to people.”

She shares that Dennis, realizing he could no longer perform, entrusted his lead-singer role to friend Tom Garrett. In the final year of his life, Dennis worked closely with Tom to keep the legacy and musical traditions of The Classics IV alive.

“Tom Garrett is a huge admirer of JFK,” Linda informs me, further bridging the connection.

Then, she offers me complimentary tickets to an upcoming show in Pittsburgh, and a rare opportunity of getting together with her and Tom, who has also become a Facebook friend.

“Can’t wait to meet you,” Linda says.

August 5, 2017                                                                                  

I’m watching a 2013 performance of the band recorded on YouTube. It’s the best I can do under the circumstances: the Pittsburgh concert was unexpectedly cancelled at the last moment.

In this video, a backdrop screen shimmers as it displays passing images of Dennis Yost. Tom Garrett walks forward to sing Traces. It was the highest-charting single by The Classics IV back in the heyday:

Faded photographs
Covered now with lines and creases
Tickets torn in half
Memories in bits and pieces

It’s fitting that he offers this particular song with these particular lyrics while those particular snapshots float overhead.

Tom has the admirable habit of doing this.

“I tell people that the place I stand on, on that stage, belongs to Dennis Yost,” he once told an interviewer. “He earned it and he asked me to take care of it for him. So, I’m the caretaker of that place on stage. That’s how I see my role.”

Although an in-person(s) connection was not made, I feel like I’ve come full circle with The Classics IV. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve circled back on myself.

I can picture Dennis Yost standing on a stage, mic in hand, that notable voice singing like he forever will on my overplayed disks. But of course that scene is nothing more than nostalgia talking. And that can be a dangerous dialogue if you aren’t careful enough.

For it is no longer Dennis Yost up there. It is no longer Cobb and Eaton and Wilson behind him. They have become the past. They have become one more regret.

But the passage of life and the evolution of The Classics IV has in no way diminished the quality of their current sound, nor the effectiveness of those enduring — dare I say endearing — lyrics. What you see now is the new Classics IV, still alive and well and doing what they do best. It is what Dennis Yost wanted, strived to make happen in his final days, worked hard to have continue long after his own passage through life.

And the connection to him – even though it’s without him – will always live on.

When the sun comes up in the morning
Till the shadows start to fade
I think about a midnight long ago…

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Who Did She See?

Vicki Adams denied seeing William Shelley and Billy Lovelady on the first floor when she arrived there. Sandra Styles provided strong corroboration that those two men weren’t around. Additional evidence backs up and is consistent with the truthfulness of Miss Adams. But what about the “black man” Miss Adams said she observed on the first floor? That’s the one she said she spoke to — asking if the president had been shot — not  Shelley or Lovelady. This is the same “black man” Sandra Styles also noticed. And it was the “black man” Marrion Baker said he was about to confront, until Roy Truly stepped in to say the guy was an employee who happened to be “slightly retarded.” The identity of this figure is a mystery. Could it have been Jack Dougherty? Check out the description of Dougherty in this Secret Service report dated December 7, 1963. Pay particular attention to how Truly describes him in the document below.

IMG_20170516_0002

 

 

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